Title: Math for Dummies

Author:Karen T

Rating:PG

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters do not belong to me. Any similarity between the beginning of this fic with a particular scene in "Chimera" is intentional, and my thanks to Damian Kindler for that scene.

Classification:"Chimera" tag, Sam/Jack.

Season/Spoilers: Season 7, spoilers for "Chimera."

Archive:SJD, of course. Anyone else, please ask first.

Feedback:Always appreciated. Please send to poohmusings@yahoo.com.

Notes:You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to, and ... you're right. ;) Thanks to Jojo and Julie for their beta help. And an extra serving of thanks to Jojo for being so cool about me inadvertently stealing her title. :)



"Clear!"

You sigh and fall onto your back, your eyelids fluttering shut as you take a second to compose yourself. Smoke from the smoldering truck continues to fill your nostrils, and you can't seem to rid your ears of the buzzing that settled there when you'd thrown yourself to the ground. A slight movement to your left has you rolling up on your shoulder to see Pete's soot-smudged face gazing back at you.

"You okay?" you ask, your eyes raking over him in one long sweep.

"I'm okay. Are you okay?"

"Yeah."

Relief spills across his face and a slow smile stretches out his lips. "Oh, that's good."

"Yeah, it is." You're sitting up now, the buzzing in your ears turning into white noise. "And since we're both okay, maybe you can explain something to me. What the hellare you doing here? How did you know I'd be here? Did you follow me? Do you realize you could have gotten yourself killed?"

Pete's eyes grow large and roll back a bit as you assault him with one question after another. "I--"

"I'm going to have to explain in my report how ... youpopped up in the middle of a classified mission. Do you have any idea how bad that's going to look for me?" Out of frustration and anxiety and a surplus of adrenaline, you grab fistfuls of his T-shirt. "God, Pete, what the hell possessed you to--"

"Oh," he gasps, his head lolling to the side as you pull him closer.

"Does that hurt? I'll showyou what hurts ..." You know you've ceased making sense, but your mind is racing and you're primarily concerned with quelling the tremors in your hands and stomach. You can't stop envisioning the image of Osiris zeroing in on Pete as a target. "How could you--"

"S-sam?" His voice comes out as a squeak and sounds alarmingly distant despite how you can practically feel the beating of his heart.

Laying him on the ground, you push open his jacket to reveal a burgeoning bloodstain on the left side of his torso. "Oh, god," you moan and press your palms into the wound. The tremors in your hands climb up your forearms, and your mind switches to a picture of you standing beside Pete's open casket, your cheeks dry but your eyes damp. "No. Nonono ..."

"Carter? Carter?"

You blink and find your hands -- perfectly clean, not a drop of blood in sight -- cupping the sides of a coffee mug. Pete and his wound are gone. The acrid smoke is gone. The tremors in your body are gone.

The bemused Colonel O'Neill who is sharing a table with you in the SGC's cafeteria is very much there, however. And he is eyeing you with blatant curiosity.

"I, uh ..." You wrack your brain for a way to save face, but then opt to go the honest route. "I'm sorry, sir, you were saying?"

"Not listening, Major?" A corner of his mouth quirks upwards a second before his brows furrow downwards. "Isn't that what Ido? Now I'm confused."

You smile dutifully, knowing full well that doing so will please him. And, at that moment, you're willing to do almost anything to get on his good side so he'll drop the matter of you mentally disappearing during your lunchtime conversation.

He smiles back -- you breathe an internal sigh of relief -- and then grows serious. "Everything okay?"

So much for distracting him with the wattage of your smile. "Everything's just fine, sir." And another grin, just in case.

"Uh-huh." He narrows his eyes andcocks an eyebrow at the same time. Apparently he's been taking some facial muscle movement lessons from Teal'c. "And everything's so fine that you're tuning me out? I know my story of rewiring my toaster to produce better toast wasn't thatinteresting, but I figured you of all people would enjoy it."

"I wasn't tuning you out, sir. I was merely-- You rewired your toaster?"

The colonel beams as he spears a sizeable chunk from the cherry pie in front of him. "Knew that'd get your attention."

"Ha." Even though you know he's studying you despite his valiant effort to appear preoccupied with consuming his slice of pie, you can't stop yourself from sneaking a quick peek over your shoulder to the entrance of the cafeteria. You aren't expecting anyone -- Teal'c and Daniel are squirreled away in Daniel's office attempting to translate some tablets SG-6 found, the colonel is across the table from you, and Pete, well, Pete is busying recuperating down in the infirmary. But your mind is preoccupied with thoughts of him, particularly that fictitious image of his wake.

With a silent curse at yourself, you shove your seat back and rise to your feet. "I should--"

"So you're really not going to tell me what's bothering you?"

Your mouth drops slightly open as you fall back into your chair. "You want to know, sir? I-- It's-- I'm sure--"

"Jesus, Carter, I'm not asking you to confess all your sins to me. If something's, you know, bothering you and you wanna-- I mean, I amyour CO and if we're ever gonna get past this awkwardness ..." The colonel's enthusiasm fades somewhat as he squirms in his seat, possibly realizing that his suggestion might not be such a good idea.

"It's really nothing. It's just ..." You relent when the colonel glares at you. "Have you ever had problems moving ... past an event after it's occurred? Like, you keep beating yourself up because you know you should have handled things differently?"

"Story of my life, Major."

"Really?"

Another sharp look has your cheeks burning. "Sorry. I'm ..."

"Stalling."

"Yes." You meet his eyes and force yourself not to grimace. "We're getting much better at these awkward conversations, sir."

"Yeah, we're like old pros. So, what past event have you been beating yourself up over? Oh! Lemme guess. You wish you'd had the red jello instead of the blue," he says with a wink as he gestures towards your empty dessert glass.

This time the smile that breaks across your face is genuine. "Not quite, sir," you say, chuckling. "It, uh ... It has to do with Pete."

"Oh." The colonel's mouth falls into a flat line and you can swear you see something -- discomfort? suspicion? concern? -- flicker over his eyes, but it's gone so quickly that you're not entirely sure he didn't just bite into an especially sour cherry. "What'd he do?" he manages to ask with relative ease, considering.

"He ..." You hesitate, then squeeze your eyes shut and blurt out, "You know how he showed up outside Daniel's house?"

The colonel shoves a forkful of pie into his mouth and mumbles, "Yeah."

"Well, after you and Teal'c neutralized Osiris and before I realized Pete was injured, I ... I didn't yell at him."

He pauses in mid-chew to stare at you, his confusion obvious. "And?"

"And I should have!" You can feel that cold burn in your stomach again. It's been smoldering and flaring off and on ever since that moment outside of Daniel's. "He had no reason to be there. He could have jeopardized us, himself ... I should have laid into him. Told him off. Explained in no uncertain terms that he'd royally screwed up."

Calmly laying his fork down beside his plate, the colonel inhales a sharp breath and looks you squarely in the face. You repress the desire to crawl under the table. "You're pretty bothered by this, aren't you, Carter?"

And now you struggle with repressing the desire to kick your CO's shins under the table. "Maybe just a bit, sir," you say in a small, tight voice.

"So why didn't you tell him off? I wouldn't have stopped you."

You're pissed -- both at yourself and Pete -- again, yet the colonel has you laughing once more. Damn him."I ..." Your right hand creeps over the lower half of your face and covers your mouth as you remember rolling over and seeing Pete, alive. The relief you'd felt then, mixed with unabashed happiness and lots of fear ... "I wanted to. And it would have been so easy to yell at him. Push him away. Tell him he'd screwed up and that was that."

"But?"

"Those are the easy things to do."

The colonel doesn't respond right away and you refuse to lift your eyes to see if he's looking at you. Seven years of countless battles fought, deaths averted, jokes cracked, and thiswould probably be how your CO remembers you: the neurotic girlfriend from hell. Now you're reallypissed at Pete.

"Yes, they are."

His response is so soft that you're not quite sure if he's speaking to you or himself. And when you dare to glance in his direction, you see understanding -- or, at the very least, empathy -- in his eyes. You're astounded to realize he comprehends how you're much more serious about Pete than you'd admitted to either him or yourself. Then again, you're not really all that astounded.

You do, however, wonder if it was as hard for him to come to this realization as it'd been for you.

You smile, inhale deeply, and announce, "I'm still pissed at Pete, though."

"Oh, of course."

"And I still wish I'd done something more than I did outside Daniel's. I mean, I should have, right?"

"Maybe a punch on the shoulder?"

"Yeah, maybe."

He picks his fork back up and you're about to rise to your feet again when he says, quite nonchalantly, "Hammond told me he let you tell Pete about the Stargate program."

"Oh, well, uh ..." You struggle for coherency, mildly embarrassed to be reminded that the program's secrecy was broken for yourboyfriend. "Just the abbreviated version, sir. It was either that or let the NID have their way with him, and I thought Pete could handle the information, so Hammond gave me clearance."

"Yeah, I figured as much." He bobs his head up and down a bit before adding, "You know we'll have to kill Pete now, don't you?"

You laugh, loudly, and stand up with your tray in your hands. "I think I'll go see how Daniel and Teal'c are doing with those translations. Thank you, sir, for ... Well, just thank you."

"Sure. Any time, Carter." He dismisses you with the tines of his fork.

You've turned your back to him and are about to make your way to the nearest receptacle, when you hear, "Hey, Carter?"

He waits until you're facing him to say, "X plus Y don't always have to equal Z. I know you like it when they do, but I'm just sayin', they don't always."

He's staring at you quite innocently and you stare back, completely flummoxed. Is he saying ... ? Could he be ... ?And then you believe you understand. "Are you saying, sir, that you think I should--"

"Carter!" He holds up a hand to stop you, his eyes rolling in exasperation. "What did I just say with the X and the Y and--"

"Sorry, sir," you rush in, realization settling into your sometimes one-tracked, too linearly focused mind. "I'll ... Thanks."

"Ohsureyoubetcha."

X plus Y don't always have to equal Z ... X plus Y don't always have to equal Z ...

That sentence bounces around your brain as you dispose of your trash. And when you reach the door, you turn to see the colonel, still enjoying his pie, with a content smile on his face.

In the past, you would have assumed the smile was due to the pie. But now that X plus Y don't always have to equal Z, you think otherwise. And you're pretty sure you're right. Both of you.

-the end-